The most consistent presence in the Dodgers’ starting rotation is moving to the bullpen.
Alex Wood leads the Dodgers with 27 starts this season, but he is not expected to make another. He will be used as a reliever for the duration of the season, manager Dave Roberts announced before Thursday’s series opener against the Cardinals. The move follows an outing in which Wood gave up seven runs against Cincinnati this week.
Ross Stripling will replace Wood in the rotation. Stripling will start Sunday’s series finale at Busch Stadium. will receive an extra day of rest and start Monday against Colorado at Dodger Stadium.
Wood will be used in “leverage innings,” Roberts said. The manager indicated Wood took the decision “like a professional.” Wood declined comment but suggested he would discuss the demotion Friday.
“Obviously, he sees himself as a starter,” Roberts said. “We do as well. But right now where we’re at with the roster, there’s got to be some concessions made by a lot of people. And he received it like a professional and said he’ll do whatever we expect. And I knew he’d say that.”
In nine starts during the second half, Wood has posted a 3.17 ERA. But the Dodgers were wary of exposing him against their division rivals. He was given extra rest to avoid a start against Arizona at home and again to miss a start against Colorado on the road. Wood faced the Texas Rangers and the Reds instead.
Cincinnati hounded Wood on Monday at Great American Ball Park. He gave up eight hits and could not finish the fourth inning. Along the way, Roberts has become more vocal about the regression of Wood’s arsenal, with his fastball velocity dipping and the sharpness of his offspeed pitches fading.
After making the All-Star team in 2017, Wood ditched the windup this past spring and decided to pitch solely from the stretch. Roberts indicated the team could revisit this strategy during the offseason.
Roberts was still hopeful that Wood’s fastball velocity could improve when used in short bursts.
“He’s done it before and he’s really flourished in that role,” Roberts said. “And we expect him to pitch leverage innings and dominate.”
Smith soaks in atmosphere
Will Smith, one of the top catching prospects in the organization, will spend the weekend with the team in St. Louis. The organization invited him to spend time around the big league staff and catchers to learn how the Dodgers prepare for games. He will not be activated, and cannot be in the dugout during games.
A first-round pick in 2016, Smith reached triple-A Oklahoma City this season. He performed well at double-A Tulsa, but in 25 games with Oklahoma City he batted .138 with a .425 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. With Yasmani Grandal able to leave in free agency this winter, the Dodgers could pair Smith with Austin Barnes in the majors in 2019.